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Hats Off – Part One

Published: Wednesday, Oct 7th 2020, 2:10pm

by: Adam Ailsby (@AdamAilsby)


It is fall and that brings with it cold weather and more wonderful.  During my last nap, I had a wonderful dream about writing a Piffles Podcast article all about something CFL related as the season started down the home stretch.  Alas, I woke up to the cruel world of no CFL season and the media space that would normally be used up on the CFL instead focusing on the hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck that is an American presidential debate.  


As a means to try to divert attention away from the horrors of politics these days, I thought a better approach would be to try to find something else in the world of sport to focus our attention on that can actually be seen as a positive.  So, this will be the first of (hopefully) a few articles that focus on some great people/organizations locally, generally and even globally who deserve some recognition.  Here goes:


The Regina Youth Flag Football League (@RYFFL)


With the spring flag football season cancelled, Mike Thomas, the Renaissance man founder of the Regina Youth Flag Football League, worked tirelessly to do all that was needed to get over 1,000 kids back to playing organized sport again this fall.  The short but fun fall season for these 1,000 kids wrapped up this past weekend.


While coordinating an ever changing landscape of restrictions, regulations, re-schedules, rain outs, re-locations and general rigamarole, the RYFFL has not let the new normal of COVID19 challenges alter its unwavering track record of being an exceptionally run organization.  While he certainly relies on a dedicated team of staff, students, referees and volunteer coaches, Mr. Thomas is no doubt the all-mighty Flag Football Oz, pulling the levers behind the proverbial curtain.  Between update emails to parents at 2:37 am, to radio adds, to answering every random game day question, concern and even complaint from parents, referees and coaches with his typical big smile, Mr. Thomas is the engine that keeps this organization running like a German train schedule.


For getting 1,000 kids back to it, RYFFL and Mr. Thomas, our hats are off to you!


The Broadway Theatre (@bwaytheatre)


No public gatherings, shows, live music, etc.  No problem.  The Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon still finds a way to warm the hearts of our collective community during the gloom of COVID19 with fun, quirky, inspirational and surprisingly timely quotes on its marquee. Next time you drive down Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon, look up and try not to smile.


These marquee masterpieces share enlightenment from inspiring icons such as the Tragically Hip, Buffy Ste. Marie, as well as my personal favorite a few months ago (in the middle of Saskatchewan’s COVID19 isolation/lockdown) from the immortal Han Solo that read “Keep your distance though Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance, I don’t know…fly casual.”


For lifting our spirits one small reference at a time, the staff of the Broadway Theatre, our hats are off to you!


Professional Athletes Who Engage Kids


Many athletes sign autographs and give kids high fives (or they use to), but it is a rare professional athlete that engages a child and does the little things to truly make that kid feel special.  Most of the time, the kids are in awe of these (figurative and often literal) giants who they see on TV, sports shows and in magazines.  When those larger than life athletes actually take the time to get down on one knee, at eye level to a kid and talk to them, it is something that those kids remember for a lifetime.    


You also have exceptional players who (pre-COVID) would spend that extra five minutes to walk around a stadium after a game to specifically find kids to give a game day towel, puck, stick, or glove to.  Might seem like a small thing, but to a kid it just means the world.


To you athletes who truly take time for kids (and for those in Rider nation, off the top of my head such fine current and past Riders most certainly include: Roger Aldag, Bob Poley, Tom Burgess, Dan Rasovich, Kennedy Nkeyasen, Darian Durant, Rob Bagg, Neil Hughes, Zach Collaros, Willie Jefferson, Dan Clark, Dakota Shepley, Charleston Hughes, Shaq Evans, etc.), our hats (and big foam fingers) are off to you!


Thank You Kids


If you have kids who are involved with sports, you no doubt at some point in time were engaged to volunteer as a coach in some capacity.  Whether you are the one-off parent helper or the seasoned pro who is now in her 14th season, you know that volunteer coaching can be a hard gig.  You also know that just when you are almost to your wits end with defective equipment, administrative hurdles, league rules and regulations, COVID19 restrictions, complaining parents, kids that don’t listen, etc., etc., etc. there is inevitably that one kid who out of the blue comes up to you after a practice or game and just says….thanks.


That little recognition, even if it came as a result of a polite subtle reminder from a parent, means the world and is often enough to help volunteer coaches forget about all the other less important tribulations of helping out.  So to all the kids that take the time to simply say thank you to your coach, instructor, teacher (and to the parents providing the polite reminders), we see you and our hats are off to you!


Coaching Mentors


Speaking of those haphazard, volunteer coaches in any sport who are Forest-Gumping their way through a season doing their best to keep it all together and pretending that those random cones laid out were actually done in an intentional pattern and not the result of them falling out of the hole in the equipment bag, those amateur coaches often know less about proper coaching than they do about hyperbolic topology.  But inevitably, there is always a more seasoned coach out there who is willing to share some tips, thoughts, ideas, drills, concepts and most importantly encouragement.  These coaching mentors offer guidance on everything from how to place a cone right side up to articles on the latest pre-match cryo-therapy methods.


Full disclosure for you all, I am one of those bumbling coaches out there trying to convince all the parents that I know what I am doing.  I have a fantastic coaching mentor who would be fully mortified if I were to name/identify him/her in an article like this so while I won’t throw the name out there, I will nevertheless show my gratitude and say, to all the coaching mentors out there, a big hats off to you!


Having the Courage To Take A Stand


As I was writing this article, I read about the San Diego Loyal soccer team of the USL who took the courageous and brave move of walking out and forfeiting on a playoff game they were winning because one of their players was abused by a homophobic slur.  Read about this amazing story here: INSERT LINK


In addition to the courage of conviction, what I really appreciate is that in his story, the new coach, Landon Donovan, fresh off a famous playing career just cutting his teeth in management, did such a phonemical job of communicating with everyone at every stage of story. 


After the first game, Donovan reached out to the officials and coach for the next team and talked to them about the traumatic situation that had taken place the previous game.  Then, after the second incident, Donovan talked to the referee and asked for recourse to be taken. When the ref didn’t feel he could, Donovan spoke again to the other team’s coach to give him a chance to be part of a solution. 


When none of that work, Donovan talked to his own players and managed their initial desire to keep playing and helped them understand the bigger picture so that the team itself bought into the drastic action about to be taken.  Only after all that communication and lack of any other option did Donovan then take drastic and brave action to deal with the situation. 


Nothing about Donovan’s responses says “knee jerk reaction” that could in anyway be criticized or critiqued. That is saying a lot, especially for a new coach just learning the ropes.  Taking away potential criticism and suggestion of overreaction, makes the action and the rightful stand so much more meaningful.  For the action and the way it was approached, Donovan and the San Diego Loyal, our hats are off to you! 


Positivity Just Because

I will end this article with a big tip of the cap to @kiahholness.  This young lady is obviously wise beyond her years when she threw out on the twitter the best thing I have seen in months with a simple message that read, “I love you.  You are probably thinking, “you don’t even know me”. But if people can hate for no reason, I can love.”  

We need more stuff like that and for that, Ms. Holness, our hats are off to you!


I hope you are able to read this article and appreciate some of the people in your community or world who do little things to make a difference.  If you know of others, tell us about them and maybe we can spread some much needed positivity.


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